Memoir – A Taste of His Own

Mr. Stan Collins was a son of a bitch.

Growing up, any time there were gonna be kids out after dark, you could bet Mr. Stan would be making an appearance. He had a full-body werewolf costume, see, and more important, a finely honed sense of tension and timing. He didn’t jump out at you right away, no sir. Had to build that anticipation, let you stew in it first. Haunted house? Werewolf at the end. Halloween hay ride? You’d better believe he set the route so you got a glimpse of him about halfway through, and then he’d chase the trailer later.

So. One summer when I was maybe thirteen, Mr. Stan took my church youth group to a cabin way out in the southwest Georgia swamp where I grew up for an overnight stay. There was another adult with us, whose name I’ve forgotten in the decades since, but it might have been Paul, so we’re gonna call him Paul. Not Mr. Paul, because he was in his early twenties, and hadn’t yet earned the honorific.

Just after we’d finished an excellent dinner (dude liked scaring kids, but he was one hell of a cook), as it was getting toward dark, Mr. Stan suddenly said he needed to run into town to get more ice for the coolers. This was the late 80s. Coolers weren’t that terrible, and we were only out there for one night, so all us kids all kind of looked at each other and nodded. As he drove away in his truck, we all knew it was time to prepare for a werewolf attack.

We were surrounded by water on three sides, and not even Mr. Stan would brave alligator-infested swamp just to scare some kids, so we all sat around the campfire and kept a lookout on the only direction the werewolf could possibly come from. We felt like we had a lock on the situation. Then, as the full moon crested the treetops, Paul said it was a beautiful night for a walk.

Uh huh. We all exchanged glances again. A quick nod to confirm that someone was most assuredly in a position to scare hell out of us, and now we wouldn’t know which direction it was coming from. And Paul was in on it.

But this was also southwest Georgia in the late 1980s, and kids didn’t dare disobey adults, even the cherry ones. We all grabbed our terrible flashlights, mustered what courage we had, and set out walking down the soft, sandy road toward our unavoidable lycanthrope encounter.

That’s not what ended up happening, though.

We walked for five minutes, heads on swivels, until our road dead-ended into another dirt road. Paul asked, a little too loud, which way we thought we should go. Then, a series of sharp grunts sounded from the foliage across the road from us, and a large black figure sprang from the darkness onto the moonlit sand.

It rose on its hind legs, beat its chest, and ROOOOOOARED. The full moon was going to waste, because that night, we skipped past werewolf straight to gorillas. Most of us were caught by surprise by the change-up, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who screamed.

Then, Paul took things in a whole new direction. I told you he was 20ish, right? He’d been scared like this before, and he must have figured it was high time someone gave practical jokers a taste of their own medicine. So he yelled, “Get behind me, boys,” pulled a .22 pistol out of his waistband, and fired five shots into the loose soil just in front of him.

The gorilla didn’t take this well at all. Suddenly, there were an array of very un-gorilla-like noises coming from it, and it tore off into the brush like it’d just heard the Piggly Wiggly had bananas on sale.

Mr. Stan finally made it back from the store an hour or so later, and he must have spilled something on himself while he was there, because he’d changed his pants in the meantime. He forgot the ice, too.

*** Author’s Note: I wrote this fully in past tense, but Mr. Stan is still kicking around southwest Georgia. I don’t think he’s doing full-body costumes any more, but I could be wrong. He also makes the best Brunswick Stew ever, which I treasure any time I can get my hands on some.

Copyright 2015 by Ross Newberry. All rights reserved.